Is Temple downsizing its connections to the black community?
For seven years Yumy Odom regularly put in 80 hours a week as the director of Temple University's storied Pan-African Studies Community Education Program (PASCEP).
Under Odom's guidance, the 33-year-old program, which was staffed by all volunteer instructors, typically offered more than 80 courses each semester in everything from basic literacy, life skills and college prep to GED, liberal arts and technical education. The classes cost about $20.
PASCEP also facilitated more than 10 outreach programs including rites-of-passage initiatives, tutoring services and prison programs. And it participated in collaborative projects with campus and community organizations.
But this fall Temple relocates PASCEP to the Entertainment and Community Education Center at 1509 Cecil B. Moore.
"The job hasn't even been tiring because I actually liked what I was doing," Odom says. "It was a community program in the real sense. It's what attracted folks when they were just walking past Anderson Hall to come and ask us if there was some special celebration. And we always would say this is regular. This is what we do every Monday through Thursday night."
The celebrations in Anderson Hall--with food, book and jewelry vendors--drew hordes of community residents over the years. Those will end when Temple relocates PASCEP.
Since being told about the relocation six months ago, Odom and others affiliated with PASCEP have been reeling. Advocates of the program recently held a rally at Temple, and a few days later Odom resigned in protest, disgusted not only by Temple forcing the move, but because he wasn't involved in the decision-making process.
"The real tragedy in this is to be treated as if you're not really a person," he says. "No one came to me to consult about anything, and I'm the director."
Odom became involved in the program shortly after moving to Philadelphia from Brooklyn in 1988, when he became an African-American studies grad student at Temple.
"We got off the first floor just to go out the mezzanine area in Gladfelter Hall and there was this program," Odom says. "We just happened to walk up on PASCEP."
The following spring semester he taught his first course in PASCEP, and stayed on as a volunteer instructor until he was hired in 1997 as the assistant director for administration. He took over the program in 2001, and in the last seven years doubled the number of classes and the number of volunteer faculty. He also hired a volunteer registrar, information technology manager and night manager.
L. Harrison Jay, Temple's director of community relations, says there's a two-fold reason for PASCEP's relocation.
"One is that the Community Education Center [CEC] was designed as the link and the portal to community education programs. Second, we've had an increase in our freshman class. The College of Liberal Arts needs that space."
With the move, instead of all of PASCEP's classes being held in Anderson, some classes will be held in the CEC and others will be scattered in other buildings like Pearson and Ritter halls.
"It's like going to college," Jay says. "Most students don't take all their classes in one building throughout their four years attending school. We see it as an actual improvement."
Temple's Black Student Union has officially condemned the move in a letter to Temple University President Ann Weaver Hart. Susan B. Hyatt, a Temple anthropology professor from 1996 to 2004 who also taught PASCEP classes, says she was shocked when she heard about the relocation to what she describes as "inadequate facilities."
PASCEP officials say the new space is a quarter the size of the program's current facility. It has an outdated computer lab, practically no parking and no space for vendors.
"It's really a slap in the face for the black community at a time when the community is under a lot of stress from the pressures of gentrification and other types of economic change," says Hyatt, who's now at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.